A snag with cultural differences is working out if you are being welcomed or victimised

"No, I haven't forgotten my manaakitanga - I'm not Maori and this is a stick-up."

It’s heartening to see one bit of Maoridom trying to compensate for some mischief and harm that’s been done by another bit.

According to the NZPA, Maori tourism operators have pitched in to help British tourists who lost cash and passports in a robbery in Whangarei. Good on them.

The thieves grabbed a bag containing “a large sum of cash” and passports at Whangarei Falls, just north of Whangarei on February 3.

Oops. Let’s stick the word “allegedly” into the previous sentence, because so far as is Alf is aware, whoever did what to whom has yet to be sorted out in the courts.

But here’s something we might muse on: the TVNZ report of the robbery said the visitors had been in the country only a week when they were robbed.

So how long should they have been here, to become eligible for an encounter with our indigenous robbers?

Dunno.

But obviously the three suspects jumped the gun and should have let the Poms enjoy a bit more crime-free time here before they pounced.

Whangarei Sergeant John Fagan described these three suspects as male Maori teenagers wearing dark clothing (although Alf imagines they might be wearning something else today).

“It is believed they are local due to their knowledge of nearby walkways and that they will be unable to keep the fact that they are in possession of a large amount of money a secret,” Fagan said.

He urged anybody with information to come forward.

Meantime, Labour MP Kelvin Davis has got in on the act.

He said he and local police have helped co-ordinate contributions from local Maori tourism operators who wanted to help the three tourists.

“The regularity of thefts and assaults against tourists is a national embarrassment and it is great that the Maori tourism sector has pulled together to help these visitors,” Mr Davis said.

“The assistance package includes a $2000 travelcard, accommodation, flights to Wellington so they can replace their passports, as well as pitching in to pay for activities while they’re in Wellington and covering their replacement passport costs.

“As Maori we understand the meaning of manaakitanga (hospitality) and feel the need to make a small gesture to compensate for what has happened to these visitors to our country.”

Alf concedes he has much to learn about these things, but he is puzzled by Davis saying “as Maori we understand the meaning of manaakitanga (hospitality)”.

There is the hint of a bothersome inference that non-Maori maybe do not understand the meaning of manaakitanga, and hence are apt to be inhospitable.

Further cultural questions are raised.

Is Davis saying that as Maori the three suspects do not understand the meaning of manaakitanga, and need a few lessons?

And what about the Popatas, when they assaulted John Key at Waitangi two years ago? Did they understand the meaning of manaakitanga?

Then there was all that boorishly noisy stuff when the PM was welcomed to Waitangi at the weekend.

Maybe manaakitanga is differently interpreted from one iwi to the next, and maybe when the Popatas shout abuse or duff you up, they actually are giving you a nice friendly welcome.

After all, Maori are inclined to wave bloody great spears at us, and leap up and down in great agitation while rolling their eyes and sticking out their tongues, and one way and another seem to look decidedly hostile. Yet they insist this is a traditional welcome.

In fact, any VIP who comes here is subjected to this carry-on and will be told they have been honoured, although Alf would settle for a simple handshake and a 21-gun salute.

Oh – a final observation.

Let’s not get the idea this sort of thing does not happen in Britain.

Crime in England and Wales fell to its lowest level in nearly 30 years according to figures published last year.

But not the number of muggings.

The number of crimes committed in 2009/10 was 9.6 million, according to the British Crime Survey. It is a drop of 9 per cent on the previous year’s figures of 10.5 million and the lowest level since 1981.

Almost every category of crime fell, including acquisitive crimes such as burglary and theft. It had been feared that such crimes would rise due to the economic downturn. Violent crime fell 1 per cent year-on-year while vandalism fell by 11 per cent. Only robbery and street muggings increased.

There was a 7 per cent increase in the number of recorded serious sex offences, too. And there was a 15 per cent increase in the number of women who reported being raped, nearly 14,000 in 2009/10.

And let’s note that 9.6 million equated to 26,000 crimes a day.

The number of homicides ā€“ which includes murder and manslaughter ā€“ was 615 in 2009/10, and recorded violent offences totalled 871,712.

So don’t imagine you are safer in London than you are at the Whangarei Falls.

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